FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The Subway restaurant brand has been quietly building a new pizza concept that reflects the made-to-order format increasingly popular in the fast-casual segment. The concept, Mama DeLuca's Pizza, is currently co-located with Subway locations, and the company sees big opportunities to usher the concept into c-stores.
"We started this made-to-order, made-in-front-of-you design a little over two years ago," Timothy Price, brand manager for Mama DeLuca's Pizza, Fort Wayne, Ind., told CSP Daily News. Through the years, the company has refined the concept even further by reducing the cost of investment, perfecting a "take or bake" crust and creating a nearly plug-and-play franchise package that leverages existing Subway space, product and labor.
The required service area is about a nine-foot section of counterspace, and fixtures consist of refrigerated rails, a buffet warmer, a dough press and a countertop impinger oven. The decor package includes an illuminated awning, sneeze guards and a finished counter.
All equipment arrives prewired for quick installation, and no cash area is needed since it is located near the existing Subway.
A Mama DeLuca's Pizza location in Jasper, Ark.The menu consists of eight-inch and 12-inch pizzas and slices, calzones, breadsticks and boneless wings. Customers choose toppings just as they do sandwiches at Subway--customized to order. They can then choose to have the pizza baked in the store or take it home to bake--what Mama DeLuca's has trademarked as "Take or Bake."
The dough was a crucial piece to Mama DeLuca's success--and is evidence of the importance of Subway as a sister brand, said Price. Initially, dough was made from scratch, which elevated investment costs. So the company went to its Subway bread provider and asked for a dough that had the take-or-bake capability along with consistency.
The result was a dough ball that goes through the same slack-and-retard process as Subway's bread. Likewise, pizza toppings have the same prep specs as those at Subway, making for efficient labor. The cross-utilization of ingredients make for unique items such as a breakfast pizza with Southwest chipotle sauce, eggs, spinach, jalapenos, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
While co-locating a Mama DeLuca's with a Subway has its benefits, "we are very open to c-stores that maybe could not do a Subway because of size restrictions," says Price. "We just feel that it would be a great opportunity to grow that brand in a market where pizza does very well."
There are currently 25 Mama DeLuca's Pizza locations, up from 12 stores last August, and the company expects to bring that count to 32 by the end of the year. Locations include Walmart stores, Subways in strip malls, one campus location at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., and two c-stores locations: a ROCS station in Martinsburg, W.Va., and a Valero store in Versailles, Ohio. Both c-stores were existing Subway operators.
"I think it' a natural for c-stores," said Dick Meyer, president of Meyer & Associates, who has consulted with Subway. He points to the ability to leverage the established consumer confidence in the Subway brand while capturing customers who don't want to eat a sandwich every day of the week.
"You have a minimal capital investment, [so] you're talking about, potentially, some serious incremental profit dollars," he says.
Investment ranges between $25,000 and $35,000, and the concept is treated like a franchise, with royalties as well as support from Subway.
The company plans to grow based on existing distribution centers, with focus on areas in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio.